We report a protocol for the amplified detection of target DNA by using a chronocoulometric DNA sensor (CDS). Electrochemistry is known to be rapid, sensitive and cost-effective; it thus offers a promising approach for DNA detection. Our CDS protocol is based on a 'sandwich' detection strategy, involving a capture probe DNA immobilized on a gold electrode and a reporter probe DNA loaded on gold nanoparticles (AuNPs). Each probe flanks one of two fragments of the target sequence. A single DNA hybridization event brings AuNPs, along with hundreds of reporter probes, in the proximity of the electrode. We then employ chronocoulometry to interrogate [Ru(NH3)6]3+ electrostatically bound to the captured DNA strands. This AuNP-amplified DNA sensor can selectively detect as low as femtomolar (zeptomoles) concentrations of DNA targets and conveniently analyze a breast cancer-associated BRCA-1 mutant DNA. The time range for the entire protocol is approximately 3 d, whereas the DNA sensing takes less than 2 h to complete.
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